Share

State Climate Policy Maps

At-a-glance

  • Twenty-three states plus the District of Columbia have adopted specific greenhouse gas reduction targets to address climate change.
  • As states fit policies to their unique circumstances, they help innovate and test climate policy design.
  • Policies include carbon pricing, emission limits, energy efficiency mandates and incentives, and steps to promote cleaner transportation.

For years, U.S. states and regions have been addressing climate change in the absence of stronger federal action. A wide range of policies have been adopted at the state and regional levels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, develop clean energy resources, promote alternative fuel vehicles, and promote more energy-efficient buildings and appliances, among other things. Although climate change ultimately requires an effective national and international response, the actions taken by states and regions play a vital role by developing and testing innovative solutions, delivering near-term emission reductions, and laying the groundwork for broader action.

Twenty-three states plus the District of Columbia have adopted specific greenhouse gas emissions targets. While each state has adopted a target and baseline year that suits its circumstances, the prevalence of these targets shows the widespread support for climate action.

Many other state policies not directly linked to greenhouse gas targets also help reduce emissions. Such policies exist in every state in the nation.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets

Carbon Pricing

One of the most direct policies that states use to address emissions is carbon pricing. Currently, this is only implemented via cap-and-trade programs, though carbon taxes are being considered in a few states as well.

The ten states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have implemented cap and trade in the power sector. Virginia will join in 2021 as the eleventh state.  California’s cap-and-trade program covers nearly its entire economy and is linked with the Canadian province of Quebec.  Massachusetts has two separate cap-and-trade programs to reduce GHG emissions in the power sector: It participates in RGGI and also has a separate cap-and-trade program (Reducing CO2 Emissions from Electricity Generating Facilities) that runs in parallel to RGGI.

State Carbon Pricing Policies

States and regions play a vital role by developing and testing innovative solutions, delivering near-term emission reductions, and laying the groundwork for broader action.

Electricity Sector Policies

A wide range of state policies help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. Some were enacted explicitly to address climate change, while others have complementary objectives such as supporting in-state producers of preferred energy sources (typically wind, solar, or nuclear) or reducing customer costs by promoting energy efficiency.

One of the most common state policies is a portfolio standard that requires electric utilities to deliver a certain amount of electricity from renewable or clean energy sources. Most of these take the form of:

  • A renewable portfolio standard (RPS), adopted in 29 states and the District of Columbia, which require a certain percentage of a utility’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources.
  • A clean energy standard (CES), adopted by seven states, which requires electric utilities to deliver a certain amount of electricity from renewable or clean energy sources.

U.S. State Electricity Portfolio Standards

Energy Efficiency Policies

States can promote energy efficiency projects and practices through mandates or incentives. Many states take both approaches. Mandatory energy efficiency policies include building codes that require low-energy features or appliance standards. Currently 15 states plus the District of Columbia have some appliance efficiency standards that exceed federal requirements.

Incentives for energy efficiency are provided chiefly through tax credits and/or rebates for energy efficiency products. Another way to promote energy sector efficiency is decoupling—changes in power regulation that base utility revenue on factors other than volume of electricity sold.

Decoupling Policies

Transportation Policies

A popular policy choice today is providing rebates or other incentives for consumers who purchase electric vehicles. But state policies can reduce transportation sector emissions in other ways as well.

A low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by requiring a shift to lower-carbon transportation fuels, such as biofuels, without prescribing a particular fuel type. Currently only California and Oregon have LCFS policies in place. They require fuel providers to continually decrease the carbon intensity of the fuels they sell, and allow for credit trading to reduce costs of compliance.

Land use decisions and public transportation investments also affect transportation sector emissions.

 

Low Carbon and Alternative Fuel Standard

Climate Action Plans

Climate action plans generally include greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and detail actions the state can take to help meet those goals. The plans may also include additional components such as resilience strategies, clean energy targets, and economic and social goals.

32 states have released a climate action plan or are in the process of revising or developing one. This includes 23 states that have released plans, 8 states that are updating their plans, and 1 state that is developing a plan.

U.S. State Climate Action Plans